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The Caterer

Brits Abroad – Antony Dubber

01 February 2012
Brits Abroad – Antony Dubber

Antony Dubber works as the chef manager for the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica. He tells Katherine Alano why he feels privileged to be working at one of the coldest and most remote locations on earth

Can you give me a broad outline of your current position?
As chef manager, I'm involved in menu planning for both summer and winter personnel, ordering food supplies and preparing food for all the meals cooked at the base. While I have a brigade of four chefs in the summer months (October-March), I'm by myself in the winter. We provide well-balanced, nutritional meals for a workforce of 113 staff.

Everything, including the breads and biscuits, are made fresh each day. It is important to offer variety as the workforce eats five times a day. They require these quantities as most of the work they do is outside in bitter cold temperatures of down to minus 15ºC in the summer.

How do you maximise the life span of fresh ingredients?
We have to organise nearly two years' worth of food being delivered all at once, and unfortunately we have limited space in our fridges, freezers and dry store areas. We have to negotiate for any additional stocks required, via British Antarctic Survey headquarters in Cambridge and the two research ships used to supply us. When the ship gets in, the fresh produce can be between two to five weeks old already - depending on how good the weather has been for the ship heading south.

All the fresh produce is kept in fridges. It's amazing how many weeks fresh food can last if well looked after. For example, fresh items with any blemishes are removed so that the badness does not spread to the better quality produce. Eggs get turned upside down, and from side to side regularly. By doing this, we can get a life span of about 15 months.

What do you cook?
We get supplied with absolutely everything you could possible expect to buy in your local supermarket, so we make dishes such as peppered sirloin with horseradish mash, steamed broccoli and balsamic onions, followed by sticky toffee pudding, as well as simpler items such as jacket potatoes with chilli con carne and salads. Produce such as monkfish, langoustines, ostrich, springbok fillets are reserved for the winter months and the 105 days of total darkness.

What are the highlights of working for the British Antarctic Survey?
I'd always wanted to come to Antarctica, especially after visiting the Arctic. It's an absolutely amazing place, a pristine wilderness of unexplored open laboratories. The drop in temperatures, night skies, auroras, twilights, camping holidays and penguin trips are some of the most physically demanding and rewarding events I have ever had the privilege to be part of.

Being able to see satellites going overhead in the clear night skies and the Milky Way stretching down past the horizon, the Emperor penguin colony in their natural environment and abseiling and ice climbing out of crevasses is all an adventurer's dream job.

What are the downsides of working in the Antarctic?
I can't honestly think of any downsides to living and working on the world's coldest, windiest and driest continent. We may be far away from friends and family for 18 months, but the highlights make it worth it.

What I do miss, though, is a bath. Having one two- minute shower a day is something I long to give up! For every ounce of water we use, we have to dig into a huge melt tank, to be used for cooking, cleaning, washing and drinking.

Do you have a limited contract? Where will you go next?
Yes, the contracts is limited to 18 months, including training and transfers. Next on the agenda for me is to try and get to the South Pole - I feel I have come so close, yet I am still about 850 miles away. I'd also like a chance to work in Greenland and Svalbard, Norway, because they are so remote, snowy and hard to get to.

What advice would you give to anyone in the industry wishing to work abroad?
Get out there. There are jobs all over the world - where there are people there will always be cooking jobs. The hardest thing isn't the country to work in but finding out the right person to contact. I got this job from an advert at the back of Caterer and Hotelkeeper.

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